Garden Route Accommodation

Remembering Ingrid Jonker

On 19 July 1965, Ingrid Jonker, a South African poet, committed suicide by walking into the sea. Jonker was 31 Years old. The advanced ideas inherent in Ingrid Jonker’s poems have made her a recognized literary figure internationally, with her poems being studied, translated and published in many languages including English, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hindi and Zulu. The collected works of Jonker, including several short stories and a play, were published in 1975 and re-issued in 1983 and 1994.

Much of Jonker’s early writing related to the episodes and trauma of her early life. Yet as a mature poet, Jonker never failed to express compassion for her fellow human beings, reflecting a refreshing innocence devoid of pernicious social prejudice and hatred. This seminal Afrikaans language poet sensitively engaged with the cause of the poor and the lot of black South Africans from the position of a common humanity. Jonker’s work was condemned by her father, then a leading member of the National Party and the chairperson of the parliamentary committee responsible for the Apartheid system of censorship.

In April 2004 Jonker was posthumously awarded the Order of Ikhamanga by the South African government for “her excellent contribution to literature and a commitment to the struggle for human rights and democracy in South Africa.

On 24 May 1994, in his State of the Nation Address to Parliament in Cape Town, President Nelson Mandela read one of Ingrid Jonker’s poems:

The child is not dead
The child lifts his fists against his mother
Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath
Of freedom and the veld
In the locations of the cordoned heart

The child lifts his fists against his father
in the march of the generations
who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath
of righteousness and blood
in the streets of his embattled pride

The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Philippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain

The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings
the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa

the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world
Without a pass